Taking charge of a tournament as thoroughly as a golfer can, Sungjae Im shot a 9-under 62 in the final round of the Las Vegas-hosted Shriners Children’s Open, to reach 24-under and win by four strokes over Matthew Wolff.
It was the second career victory for the 23-year-old from South Korea, who snagged the 18 and 36-hole co-lead at TPC Summerlin before dropping back after a Saturday 70. Im began the final day at 15-under-par, three strokes back of Adam Schenk.
It did not take long for Im to make his move, He birdied three of his first four holes, before another birdie on 9 jumped him out front for the first time. Im then followed that birdie with four more consecutively, to put himself out of reach. He was 9-under through 13 holes, which briefly had him on 59 watch, and then parred out for 62. Wolff battled early as well, but then bogeyed 10 and 13, the latter of which essentially put a finish to the tournament.
Among those vying early to capture the Shiners title were Wolff, Schenk, Marc Leishman, and Rory Sabbatini. Leishman exploded into contention with nine birdies en route to an 8-under 63. Same story for Sabbatini, the silver-medal winner at the recent Olympic Games, who played the front nine in 7-under, leading to a 7-under 64. Leishman and Sabbatini finished 19-under for the week, tying for third with Schenk, who stalled on his front-nine and slipped back after an underwhelming 1-under 70.
The third event of the 2022 wrap-around season was the 100th event of Im’s career (ironically, his first win came on his 50th), despite the fact that he has only been on Tour for three seasons. His 35 starts last season tied for most on the PGA Tour, and even with playing the weekend in 29 of those 35, the grind apparently did not drain him early in the new season.
Red-hot Sam Burns, who won last week’s Sanderson Farms Championship, was just two strokes off the lead coming into the final round, but seemed to run out of gas on the front nine, as he shot a 1-over 71 to drop from T3 to T14.
2021 Shriners Open: Top 10
Pos-Player-To Par (Final Rd)
1. Sungjae Im -24 (-9)
2. Matthew Wolff -20 (-3)
3. Marc Leishman -19 (-8)
3. Rory Sabbatini -19 (-7)
3. Adam Schenk -19 (-1)
6. Lanto Griffin -18 (-5)
6. Adam Hadwin -18 (-4)
8. Hayden Buckley -17 (-8)
8. Aaron Wise -17 (-5)
8. Harry Hall -17 (-3)
Shriners Open: Other Notables
Pos-Player-To Par (Final Rd)
14. Louis Oosthuizen -15 (-3)
14. Sam Burns -15 (+1)
21. Danny Willett -14 (-3)
35. Adam Scott -11 (-2)
35. Matt Kuchar -11 (-2)
40. Joaquin Niemann -10 (-4)
44. Charley Hoffman -9 (+2)
44. Viktor Hovland -9 (-3)
67. Francesco Molinari -6 (E)
67. Hideki Matsuyama -6 (+1)
67. Brooks Koepka -6 (+2)
How Sungjae Im Won The Shriners Children’s Open
Sungjae Im exploded out of the gates on Thursday to shoot an 8-under 63, which he then followed with a 65. He played his first, second, and fourth rounds bogey-free, and his 26 birdies was second in the field for the week.
Im did his best work with his irons, hitting 17 of 18 greens in regulation in round 4, and leading the field for the week in strokes gained: tee-to-green. He was second in greens in regulation, sixth in strokes gained: approach-the-green, and led the field in scrambling.
The Korean was stellar with his putter on Sunday, gaining 2.8 strokes to the field on the greens, and sinking several lengthy putts.
Im’s Winning Stats
Driving: 316.3 yards (48th)
Fairways: 73.21% (44/56) (T34)
Greens: 80.56% (62/72) (2nd)
Putts/GIR: 1.661 (T15)
SG: Total: 16.002 (1st)
What It Means For Im
Im’s victory gives him momentum heading into next week’s CJ CUP @ Summit, where he is sponsored by the tournament host. Having a strong finish to the 2021 calendar year would be very helpful for the next major season. Im has just one top-10 in a major so far, a T2 effort at the 2020 Masters, which Dustin Johnson won by four strokes.
He will get a considerable boost on his current world ranking of 29th, and he jumps to second in the FedExCup Standings. Im has made the Tour Championship in all three of his Tour seasons.
Im’s 2021-22 Season
Cuts Made: 2
Wins: 1 (Shriners)
Earnings: $1,302,788 (2nd)
FedExCup Pts: 524 (2nd)
World Rank Before/After: 29/23
Little-known Hayden Buckley played his front nine in 6-under, and stayed bogey-free on the back for an 8-under 63, which tied Leishman for second-best score of the day.
Making just his sixth start on the PGA Tour, the 25-year-old jumped 23 spots up the leaderboard with the 63, from T31 to T8, his second consecutive top-10 finish.
Lanto Griffin was the star of rounds 2 and 3, scoring back-to-back 7-under 64s to bounce back nicely from an opening 72. Griffin stayed hot on Sunday, shooting a bogey-free 5-under 66 to finish the week at T6.
The biggest rise up the leaderboard on Sunday came from Joel Dahmen, who jumped 30 spots up the leaderboard, from T54 to T24 with a 7-under 64. Dahmen did most of his damage on the back nine, carding six birdies.
Defending champion Martin Laird again showed his proficiency at TPC Summerlin with a 5-under 67 that got him to T11 for the week. Laird also won the 2009 Shriners, and finished runner-up when winner Jonathan Byrd had a walk-off ace on the first playoff hole.
A respectable 2-2-0 week at the Ryder Cup gave hope that Brooks Koepka was back in form, after some poor performances late in the 2021 season, and most recently had to withdraw from the Tour Championship with a wrist injury.
Koepka made the cut (albeit on the number), which a number of the higher-profile players in the field cannot say, but his weekend was terrible, as he followed a Saturday 72 with a 2-over 73 on Sunday to finish in a tie for 67th place. He was +5 after 13 holes, needing a late eagle and birdie to manage the score he did.
Also finishing T67 was reigning Masters Champion Hideki Matsuyama, who shot a 1-over 72, his third straight round of par or worse after opening the week with a 7-under 65.
Chad Ramey, a 29-year-old Tour rookie, had identical scores to Im over the first two rounds, tying him for the co-lead after both. He was just two strokes off Schenk’s 54-hole lead, but basically ended his chances with double-bogeys on 3 and 7. He finished the day with a 1-over 72 to drop from T3 to T14.
Sunday’s worst round and biggest leaderboard drop came from PGA vet Charles Howell III, as a 4-over 72 knocked him down 37 spots, from T10 to T47. The 42-year-old might feel discouraged by his Sunday play, as he looks to regain form after tallying just one top 10 in 21 starts last season. Howell III has 13 seasons with at least five top-10s.
“I saw the scoreboard for the first time on the 14th hole and when I saw that I was leading by five I said to myself that, ‘Let’s not make a mistake and I can get this done’.”
– Sungjae Im, Shriners Children’s Open Champion